What Is a Denturist & How Are They Different from Dentists?

What Is a Denturist & How Are They Different from Dentists?
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What Is a Denturist & How Are They Different from Dentists?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. What is a Denturist?
  2. Services They Provide
  3. When Do You Need One?
  4. Additional Schooling or Training
  5. Do You Need a Denturists for Dentures?
  6. References

Dentures are some of the most effective treatment options for individuals with irreparable tooth loss. Dentists have historically played a central role in the provision of these therapeutic dental services.

However, many patients are confused as to whether see a dentist or denturist for this kind of specific denture care.

If you needed a prosthetic tooth replacement today, you could walk into a dentist’s office and get a diagnosis and prescription. Denture clinics served by denturists also offer these services.

The primary concerns for patients are:

  • Is a denturist trained and licensed to offer the full range of denture services (without a dentist’s direct supervision)?
  • What is the more cost-effective option between a dentist and denturist?

What is a Denturist?

According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), a denturist is a trained and licensed dental specialist who creates and fits dentures. Their scope of work is limited to:

  • Fabricating dentures
  • Fitting dentures
  • Patient aftercare
  • Denture care, including repair

Services a Licensed Denturists Can Provide

A licensed denturist has the necessary academic and professional credentials to offer the following tooth replacement services:

Dental Examination and Consultation

Before proposing any denture treatment plan, your denturist will assess and discuss your specific requirements. Based on comprehensive dental exam results, the specialist can fabricate a best-fit solution to restore teeth appearance and speech ability (phonetics) without any discomfort.

They’ll use visual, imaging, or other appropriate techniques to look into your gums, bones, and mouth tissues. Your medical and dental history as well as any existing dental issues will also influence the development of your prosthetic treatment plan.

The denture care expert may refer you to a dentist or doctor if they diagnose you with an oral disease/complication, such as swollen gums, during your first visit.

To help your denturist create customized and optimally fitting dentures, you’ll need to take a bite registration. This procedure captures an accurate impression of your existing teeth and the spaces in between.

Make sure to discuss with your denturist any treatment concerns, limitations, and expectations during your denture consultation.

Removable Implants
A patient with soft and hard tissue weaknesses may not fully recover their smile and tooth function like chewing or speech after getting a fixed implant prosthetic. Removable implant treatment, commonly known as implant overdentures, is generally the more effective teeth replacement solution for such a patient.
Complete Dentures

You can have the entire set of lost upper and lower jaw teeth replaced with full denture therapy at a denturist’s clinic. This won’t be a one-at-a-time replacement.

Rather, the denturist will fabricate a single removable appliance to occupy your whole mouth. When you remove it, you’re left with no teeth.

Partial Dentures
Partial dentures replace only the permanently lost tooth or teeth in the upper or lower jaw. Your denturist will design and build the removable structure to be a perfect match for the remaining healthy or salvageable teeth.
Denture Modification
A denturist can modify or repair your existing dentures if necessary. For instance, dentures may become lose after time, requiring relining for a better grip and more comfort in the mouth.
Aftercare Dental Exams

You should visit your denturist regularly for dental examination after getting your dentures. Routine denture care and checkups usually involve:

  • Examining bones and tissues for any problems
  • Assessing your bite and denture’s overall stability
  • Denture cleaning
  • Identification of any post-care/post-surgery abnormalities
If your denturist uncovers any dental complication during a routine visit, they may refer you to another dentist, oral surgeon or dental implant specialist for treatment or further checkup.
On the other hand, a general dentist is trained and licensed to conserve natural teeth by diagnosing, preventing, and treating oral diseases and infections. For example, you should see a dentist to fill a cavity or treat gum disease instead of a denturist.

When Do You Need a Denturist?

You can see a denturist anytime you need to restore your smile with removable prosthetics after losing any number of teeth. There are two main scenarios in which most patients end up under a denturist’s care.

These are:

Walk-in Clinics (Without a Referral)

You can walk into a denturist’s office and get professional help without a dentist’s referral. According to the International Federation of Denturists (IFD), denturists are recognized as independent practitioners with the legal mandate and technical credentials to work directly with patients.

Unlike dentists that rely on dental technicians to make impression trays and dentures, denturists fabricate these solutions in their own labs. They’re usually a one-stop dental service center for denture design, fabrication, and care.

With a Referral 

A dentist can refer you to a denturist, for instance, after removing a severely damaged tooth. Denturists are themselves established in the mainstream dental healthcare system.

They usually play a vital role in multi-disciplinary care coordination.

What Additional Schooling or Training do They Have?

The specific academic qualifications for a denturist license generally vary by state or country. In jurisdictions like Oregon, denturists must obtain an associate degree in denture technology to practice.

While the core of denturism studies is dentures, these programs usually cover other dental care basics and professional topics. Additional disciplines covered may include:

  • Oral /dental infections
  • Other diseases
  • Emergency care, including prevention and management of medical emergencies associated with denture treatments
  • Federal and state laws regulating denturism
  • Sociology
  • Pharmacology (drugs)
  • Public health law/regulations
  • Nutrition
  • Communication
  • Dental psychology
  • Ethics
  • Small business management
  • Marketing  

In states like Washington, denturists must take up continuing education (15 clock hours per year) to retain their license.

Do You Have to go to a Denturist for Dentures?

The simple answer is no because some dentists can also make dentures. For example, prosthodontists are trained to design and create all types of dentures besides other prosthetic solutions like dental implants and crowns.

These specialists have three years of extensive training in restorative dentistry. Since they possess technical expertise in laboratory construction of dentures, they don’t usually need to involve denturists in this line of work.

However, patient experiences can vary by practice, even with similar academic qualifications and denture services offered. The difference might be something you want to consider when choosing between a denturist and dentist.

Take the example of a dentist that has to send your dental impressions to a qualified lab technician for denture fabrication. Between making preliminary impressions, correcting errors and adjusting dentures for a perfect fit, there might be lengthy back-and-forths. 

The involvement of another professional in the process may also impact your costs.

Because a denturist solely handles all the clinical and technical aspects of denture design and construction onsite, they might have a more efficient workflow. This benefit usually translates in lower treatment costs for patients with missing teeth.

References

Board of Denture Technology - Practitioner Information. Oregon Health Authority. Date Fetched: September 5, 2021

Implant Overdentures, Introduction. Foundation for Oral Rehabilitation. Date Fetched: September 6, 2021

Denturism: An Overview. International Federation of Denturists. Date Fetched: September 7, 2021

What is a Prosthodontist and the Dental Specialty of Prosthodontics? American College of Prosthodontists. Date Fetched: September 8, 2021

Course Description Matrix – Diploma & BS. American Denturist College. Date Fetched: September 9, 2021

Denturist. Washington State Department of Health. Date Fetched: September 9, 2021

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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